david by donatello

Most art scholars believe that the sculpture was commissioned by Cosimo de’ Medici (1389-1464), who had a particularly high opinion of Donatello, but exactly when it was made is not known. Majority opinion appears to favour the 1440s, when the new Medici Palace was designed and built by the Florentine architect Michelozzo di Bartolommeo (1396-1472). In any event, by the time of the wedding of Lorenzo the Magnificent in 1469, the bronze stood in the centre of the courtyard of the Medici palace in Florence. Following the seizure of the Medici palace in 1495, and the expulsion of the Medici family from the city in 1496, the David was placed in the courtyard of the Palazzo della Signoria, where it was installed on a marble column. It was seen here during the mid-16th century by the Mannerist biographer Giorgio Vasari (1511-74) who wrote: “This figure is so natural in its vivacity and softness that artists find it hardly possible to believe it was not moulded on the living form.” During the 17th century it was moved to the Pitti Palace, from where it was taken in 1777 to the Uffizi Gallery. Finally, in 1865, it was transferred to the Bargello museum, where it can be seen today.
Donatello’s Marble Statue of David

David by donatello
The statue stood proudly on a column that was designed by the talented Desiderio da Settignano. It was situated in the middle of the Palazzo Medici’s courtyard, with an inscription that explained the significance of the statue as a highly regarded political monument. While the political significance of the sculpture was accepted, the precise meaning of the inscription has become a debatable topic among scholars.
In both statues, David appeared as a physically delicate and quite effeminate being. According to art scholars, the head of this young man was inspired by Antinous’ classical sculpture. Antinous was a famous Hadrian renowned because of his immense beauty. The physique of the sculpture, on the other hand, was rather ambiguous, yet alluring. It also depicted how the youth was able to overcome the mighty Goliath with the help of God instead of his own strength.

David by donatello
Donatello, David, c. 1440-1460, bronze
Before Donatello’s work, David was typically depicted as a king, given his status in the Old Testament. Here, however, we have a stark change in the way David is depicted. Not only is he shown in the nude, but he’s also a youth. In Middle Ages, nudity was not used in art except in certain moral contexts, such as the depiction of Adam and Eve, or the sending of souls off to hell. In the classical world, nudity was often used in a different, majestic context, such as with figures who were gods, heroes, or athletes. Here, Donatello seems to be calling to mind the type of heroic nudity of antiquity, since David is depicted at triumphal point in the biblical narrative of his victory over Goliath.

David by donatello

  • 5 feet tall
  • Material: bronze
  • intimate, beautiful and vulnerable: warm tones of the bronze and small size: feel a closer connection
  • sensuality which contradicts that this is an old testament subject/ not a biblical representation
  • Gruesome head vs with beauty and sensuality of young David= Donatello depicted David’s innocence (instead of more masculine and frightening) in such a gruesome event
  • the bronze: smooth the seams and the surface and to cut in details (like the hair): just like Greeks/ Romans
  • intimacy: the nudity, the expression of the face, and the stance of the body
  • Contrapposto: natural stance very similar to ancient Greeks/ Romans
  • Free-standing: detached from the architecture gives it the freedom to move in the world, show expression, and communicate with you + contraposto= humanistic

Argument: Pride vs Thought:

David by donatello
According to Vasari, the statue stood on a column designed by Desiderio da Settignano in the middle of the courtyard of the Palazzo Medici; an inscription seems to have explained the statue’s significance as a political monument. [14] A quattrocento manuscript containing the text of the inscription is probably an earlier reference to the statue; unfortunately the manuscript is not dated. [15] Although a political meaning for the statue is widely accepted, but what that meaning is has been a matter of considerable debate among scholars. [16]
Donatello, then in his early twenties, was commissioned to carve a statue of David in 1408, to top one of the buttresses of Florence Cathedral, though it was never placed there. Nanni di Banco was commissioned to carve a marble statue of Isaiah, at the same scale, in the same year. One of the statues was lifted into place in 1409, but was found to be too small to be easily visible from the ground and was taken down; both statues then languished in the workshop of the opera for several years. [2] [3] [4] In 1416, the Signoria of Florence commanded that the David be sent to the Palazzo della Signoria; evidently the young David was seen as an effective political symbol, as well as a religious hero. Donatello was asked to make some adjustments to the statue (perhaps to make him look less like a prophet), and a pedestal with an inscription was made for it: PRO PATRIA FORTITER DIMICANTIBUS ETIAM ADVERSUS TERRIBILISSIMOS HOSTES DII PRAESTANT AUXILIUM (“To those who fight bravely for the fatherland the gods lend aid even against the most terrible foes”). [5]



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